Critique: TNT’s Dallas Episode 2 – ‘Hedging Your Bets’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Hedging Your Bets, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Patrick Duffy, TNT

Whole new ball

“Hedging Your Bets,” the second of the two episodes TNT telecast on “Dallas’s” opening night, was solidly entertaining, even if it wasn’t quite as satisfying as the first hour, “Changing of the Guard.” The story continued to take unexpected twists, but I found myself hoping things would slow down so the audience could get better acquainted – or reacquainted – with the characters.

The best scenes in “Hedging Your Bets” were set at the Cattle Baron’s Ball, which looked far cooler than the stuffy black-tie galas the Ewings attended on the old show. I loved how director Michael M. Robin opened this sequence: John Ross and J.R. arrived in a black Suburban while “I’m a Man,” a tune by Swedish rockers the Blue Van, boomed in the background. It was another reminder this isn’t daddy’s “Dallas.”

Inside the ballroom, J.R. – using a walker to gin up his family’s sympathy – made amends with Bobby. This scene, which was nicely written by Cynthia Cidre, allowed Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy to demonstrate how their chemistry remains unaltered by the passage of time.

I was particularly impressed with Hagman. He still has an uncanny knack for making the audience want to believe J.R., even when we know the character is lying. I long ago stopped trying to figure out the actor’s secrets and decided to just sit back and enjoy his performances. He amazes me.

J.R.’s long-awaited first scene with Sue Ellen was well written and performed, too. He ran into her at the ball, and even though it was probably the first time the characters had seen each other in years, Cidre didn’t go overboard with a big, emotional reunion. Still, while J.R.’s last line (“You’re still the prettiest girl at the ball”) was sweet, I wish Linda Gray had been given a little more to do here. She had just 18 words of dialogue, which felt a little insufficient.

On the other hand, I very much liked the scene where Sue Ellen loaned Elena the money she needs to buy the oil leases. Gray looked like she enjoyed showing off her character’s confidence and success. The role of mentor fits Sue Ellen well, although she shouldn’t be limited to serving as a cheerleader for other characters. Sue Ellen needs her own storyline, and I’m hopeful her looming gubernatorial run will give Gray an opportunity to strut her stuff.

The other highlight of “Hedging Your Bets:” the scene where Elena confronted John Ross over the e-mail that broke up her and Christopher two years earlier. Jordana Brewster beautifully expressed Elena’s confusion and outrage, but don’t overlook Josh Henderson, whose pained expression made me believe John Ross really cares for Elena.

This is important because as I wrote in my “Changing of the Guard” critique, I’m not quite sure what makes John Ross tick. Right now, it feels like he’s the antagonist because that’s what the plot demands, so John Ross’s relationship with Elena has the potential to make him a more dimensional character.

By the way, I’m really enjoying the scenes set in Elena’s little house on the Souhfork grounds. The shabby chic decor makes it feel like a real home, which is appropriate, since Brewster does such a good job making Elena feel like a real person.

In many ways, Elena’s home serves the same function Ray Krebbs’ rambler did on the original “Dallas.” This probably isn’t a coincidence. Like Ray, Elena is poised to become the “everyperson” who serves as the audience’s eyes and ears in the world of the Ewings. She might be the most pivotal character of all, at least among the younger players.

Finally, a word about Rebecca, the Ewing clan’s newest addition. Of the eight principal characters on TNT’s “Dallas,” she received the least development in “Changing of the Guard,” and after seeing “Hedging Your Bets,” I understand why. Rebecca is supposed to be enigmatic. In this episode, her cryptic conversation with her brother Tommy made it clear the siblings (they are siblings, right?) are up to something nefarious, although we don’t know what.

I welcome this. The mystery surrounding Rebecca and Tommy feels like it’s going to be crucial, and it deserves to unravel at its own pace. After all, if TNT’s “Dallas” is going to be around awhile – and I sure hope it will be – there’s no point in rushing through every storyline.

Grade: B

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dallas, Elena Ramos, Hedging Your Bets, John Ross Ewing, Jordana Brewster, Josh Henderson, TNT

Mailman?

‘HEDGING YOUR BETS’

Season 1, Episode 2

Telecast: June 13, 2012

Writer: Cynthia Cidre

Director: Michael M. Robin

Audience: 8.3 million viewers (including 6.9 million viewers on June 13, ranking 1st in the weekly cable ratings)

Synopsis: Bobby tells his wife Ann he has cancer and rejects Christopher’s plea to not sell Southfork. Elena breaks up with John Ross, who has sex with Marta and is extorted by Bobby’s duplicitous lawyer, Mitch Lobell, who is secretly aiding John Ross and J.R. in their plot to seize Southfork. John Ross’s mother Sue Ellen loans Elena money for her oil business and encounters ex-husband J.R., who wants to makes amends with her. Rebecca’s brother Tommy tells her she shouldn’t become too comfortable in her new role as Christopher’s wife. J.R. learns Marta is an imposter.

Cast: Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Brett Brock (Clyde Marshall), Richard Dillard (Mitch Lobell), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Marlene Forte (Carmen Ramos), Julie Gonzalo (Rebecca Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Castulo Guerra (Carlos del Sol), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Leanna Pareja (Marta Realidad), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Audrea Ulmer-Cowan (Candy), Leonor Varela (Marta del Sol)

“Hedging Your Bets” is available at DallasTNT.com, Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. I was somewhat confused with the new look of Cattleman’s Ball. I kept waiting to see the old look on the orginal Dallas.
    Of course the arrival of J.R. was really impressive.
    I do agree: The storylines moved fast, and there were so many. I was actually having a hard time comprehending them all. After reading these reviews, I understand them better.
    Elena’s house is just darling. Being a woman, and loving shabby chic, I picked up on that. At first I didn’t thiink I was going to like Elena, but I have changed my mind. It was so upsetting to see Christopher’s new wife turn out to be not what she seems. Whatever her brother’s scheme is, I am pretty sure she no longer wants to be part of it.
    I love Bobby’s wife Ann. She’s a very good actress. PLEASE don’t have Bobby die!

  2. I loved the environment of the Cattlemans Ball. I agree that it did look cooler than the old Oil Barons Ball.

    I told my wife the same thing about how believable J.R. is even though you know he must be lying. It is why I got so mad at Bobby and Sue Ellen in the old series. Pamela and Cliff seemed to be the only two that did not allow his charm to deceive them. Well, Clayton was wise to him, too.

    Rebecca: is it possible she is Pamela Rebecca, Cliff and Afton’s daughter? The story of her parents’ death could stall anyone asking more about her past…for now. I really hope she has some connection to characters from the old run.

    • Good question about Rebecca. Many fans suspect she is indeed Pamela Rebecca, although there seems to be a new theory emerging that she will turn out to be the daughter of Katherine Wentworth. Hopefully we’ll know by the end of the season.

      As always, thanks for commenting! I appreciate it.

      • Katherine’s daughter? Well, anything is possible.

        I am watching season 4 (5 DVD) right now. I can remember Dallas from 1987-1991 because those are the years I watched growing up. I am now going through from the beginning on DVD (my wife buys them for me on b-day, x-mas and Fathers Day).

        I say all that just to let you know there is much I don’t know about Katherine. I know she drove into Bobby, but that is about it. Was she married while on the show?

      • Hmm. Let me see if I can offer you a somewhat spoiler-free explanation. Here goes: Katherine is the half-sister of Cliff and Pam. All three share the same mother, Rebecca Wentworth. Katherine was obsessed with Bobby, became unhinged and went on a bit of a crime spree before leaving the town. She was not married. For more on Katherine, you might want to check out DallasDivasDerby.com, which has a more detailed bio and some video. Hope that helps!

      • Thanks! Yeah, it seems like she was a legit. nut-job on the series. I just wonder why anyone is connecting her with Rebecca? Is it more of a show in the dark, or something else from the old series I missed?

      • Okay, I just read a great rundown on Katherine and the Rebecca connection on the Dallas Redone blog

        http://dallasredoneblog.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/flashback-friday-is-dallas-villainess-katherine-wentworth-the-mother-of-rebecca-and-tommy-sutter/

        I thought Katherine was dead. I really need to shake out the cobwebs and do more homework. Good night, if Rebecca is Katherine’s daughter, things are going to get nuts.

      • Indeed!

      • I watched the episode where Katherine saw how Cliff redid her father’s office. The look she gave about it spelled trouble. It reminds me how a great show like Dallas could always bring in good and intriguing characters. It seems like a lot of shows will introduce new characters that are pretty much copies of others that have left a show already. Dallas was original!

      • I agree. It’s tempting to compare Katherine to Kristin, since both are “wicked” sisters. But each character is actually pretty distinctive, as you’ll discover as you watch more episodes from the era that features Katherine.

        As always, thanks for commenting!

  3. Reblogged this on Dallas, Life & Jesus Christ and commented:
    Excellent episode summaries.

  4. Chris, I don’t get the reason behind John Ross and Marta kissing in the parking lot. Was it for old times sake? Did he want to make JR proud? Why is he being a scoundrel when he professed to be crazy about Elena later on? What do you think?

    • Good question. I don’t think John Ross is trying to impress J.R.; I think the connection between John Ross and Marta is supposed to be a secret.

      My theory is that the new show uses Marta as another demonstration of how John Ross is like his father. Not only do both men cheat in business — they cheat in their personal lives too. Both men love “good” women (J.R. loves Sue Ellen, John Ross loves Elena), but they cannot resist the temptation of a sexy siren (in John Ross’s case, Marta; in J.R.’s, every other woman on the original show).

      It could also be that the show’s writers are still figuring out John Ross’s character, so sometimes he might seem to act inconsistently: He professes his love for Elena but kisses Marta, etc.

      • I agree with your theory, Chris. This would explain why John Ross kept repeating the word “lust” to Marta. From the start he had made a clear distinction between love and lust. Whereas, Marta wanted their dalliance to mean much more than lust…

        Man, these morning after catch ups are becoming addictive. Cheers Chris. I really value your insights. :) Oh btw, just out of curiousity, were you an English major in College? Did you write for your college paper or something? I used to intern for a major wire service and the way you edit and write remind me of the journos who worked there, thats all.

      • Thank you! I appreciate your kind words and enjoy hearing what fellow fans think about the show. Please keep commenting!

        To answer your question, I once worked as a newspaper reporter, so that might explain my writing and editing style.

        Thanks again!

        CB

  5. Who is Audrea Ulmer-Cowan (Candy)? She was named in the credits. I remember the episode but I do not remember her?

    • Candy worked at the nursing home where J.R. lived. In the scene, as I recall, she interrupts his meal with John Ross and Marta and tells him it’s time for his physical therapy.

Trackbacks

  1. […] heavy use of music on “Dallas” might be the new show’s best innovation of all. In “Hedging Your Bets,” J.R. and Sue Ellen reunited at the Cattle Baron’s Ball to the sounds of Justin Townes Earle’s […]

  2. […] 9 to 11 p.m. Kick off your marathon on Friday night at 9 o’clock — the holiest hour of the week for “Dallas” fans — with a double feature of the TNT’s show’s first two episodes: “Changing of the Guard” and “Hedging Your Bets.” […]

  3. […] season we soon learned that Rebecca was not who she said she was. First we learn that she and Tommy were plotting to steal Christopher’s methane-extraction technology and then that she and Tommy were actually lovers, not brother and sister. Then she was forced to […]

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